Uptown Escapes – Sanctuary (Review)

Location: Shelby, NC

Players: 4-8 (We recommend 4-6)

Price: $23 (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) $28 (Friday, Saturday) per person

Time to Escape: 70 minutes

People are the true monsters here.

Theme:

From the Uptown Escapes website:

It’s been years since the lights went out. Civilization is in shambles. All forms of government have crumbled. After the blackout, cities were razed to ash as different factions desperately tried to seize power. There remains, however, one small ray of hope: Sanctuary. You’ve seen the signs, painted crudely on billboards and underpasses. A safe place, open to all, where your worries will finally be relieved.

You have had an uphill journey making your way to Sanctuary’s gates. You are relieved to be here, but there is unquestionably something strange about this refuge. As you enter the gates and approach the welcoming headquarters, the other inhabitants will not look you in the eye. Could this be the place you’ve hoped for? A place to rebuild and start over? Or is this Sanctuary just a prison in disguise?

First Impressions:

Jumping back into the briefing room, we were greeted with another well produced briefing, and waited to see what would happen to us this time! We had been told that Sanctuary was a much more intense experience than Room 1306, so we steeled ourselves for anything! Soon our helpful Sanctuary guard came by to show us to our two separate rooms in his own special, and our adventure into the safe walls of Sanctuary began. There were gumdrop trees and warm hugs all around, definitely. No need to fear your first steps into this stronghold of fear!

High Points:

Sanctuary may be the first room I’ve done that splits the players at the beginning and doesn’t have one room that is way better than the other, which is apparently a triumph, as I’ve never come across such in the almost 200 rooms I’ve previously experienced, so kudos to Uptown Escapes there! Sanctuary is definitely an intense adventure, spanning an extra ten minutes more than the usual escape, and that time isn’t just there for show, you’ll need it during the densely packed rooms that are ahead! The game starts in your dark and bare holding cells, but as you make your way through this, one of humanity’s last bastions, a sinister story unfolds through the development of the set and the excellent props you’ll find inside!

The game flow is great for the most part, splitting between many different puzzle types, allowing for each member of the team to shine during their favorite interactions. There are many points at which small details were suddenly important and helped direct us toward intuitive and satisfying ah ha moments. Several great interactions with the set and props abounded, and one particular puzzle was so simple in it’s presentation, but was one of my favorite interactions of the 17 room weekend, the solution was so elegant! The intense storyline of our escape kept building throughout the entire experience, and only let up once we had completed the wholly awesome climax.

Low Points:

One of the first interactions I had with the room was getting a splinter from a very rough area of one of our initial props. The owners have been notified however, so I’m confident this won’t be a problem in the future. The intensity of the experience could be a pro or con, depending on the player, as it certainly does not let up at all. A slight reprieve from the action might help, as this is definitely a long experience, and though we enjoyed it, there’s a reason most horror movies include comic relief to lighten the mood, as once we were done, we were thoroughly mentally exhausted. At one point during the room, a key was unfortunately missing from the set, causing us to fumble about for a while trying to find it, but once we asked for a clue and it was ascertained that the key was not where it should’ve been, our Game Master leapt into action, getting the key to us and adding some extra time to our clock to make up for it.

Verdict:

Sanctuary is definitely one of the most intense escape adventures I’ve been on, but I still think it is a must do if you’re anywhere near Shelby, NC! An excellent set, coupled with a dense game flow, and an intense storyline, this room is definitely the full package! Beginners might want to check out Room 1306 to start, since this one definitely is a challenge, but I think it can be done with the right group. Enthusiasts will love the ramped up challenge and story, I think! Start your trek to Sanctuary by booking here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Uptown Escapes provided media discounted tickets for our team.

Uptown Escapes – Room 1306 (Review)

Location: Shelby, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $20 (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) $25 (Friday, Saturday) per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Hotels are a naturally creepy place…

Theme:

From the Uptown Escapes website:

After a tragic fire destroyed the Pleasant City Hotel in 1953, no traces of the 13th floor were ever discovered…no debris, no guests saved, no bodies found. Some say the floor never existed, the staff however, believe it is still very much alive and thriving. No one knows the whole truth, all they know is that sometimes guests never manage to make it up to their rooms, or never make it back down. Will you discover the secret of Pleasant City Hotel? Or will yours be the next name added to the list of mysterious disappearances?

First Impressions:

We previously were set to visit Uptown Escapes in July, during our last Charlotte area trip, but the day before we left, the business suffered a freak lightening strike, knocking out their A/C during one of the hottest months of he year! Luckily, we were able to make it out a couple months later, and the owners were very accommodating! The ambiance of Uptown Escapes is readily apparent from the time we entered, with no overhead lights on and lanterns placed strategically about, giving the whole place a spooky feel. I love when the room themes “leak” out into the lobby, and this was an excellent touch to get us in the mood for some creepy escapes!

High Points:

The mood having been set well from the start, we were led into a simple, yet amazingly designed holding room for the briefing. The way it was set up, there was a constant creeping dread as we were never quite sure what would happen next, or where that happening would come from. After that, we were ushered into a spooky “elevator,” which provided even further creepiness through excellent light and sound design! Arriving on the 13th floor was a breathtaking moment, and the set design itself is top notch, with the whole experience looking appropriately burned out and aged. The room opens up in unexpected ways, allowing for some great interactions while making our way into the titular Room 1306, and providing an amazing puzzling experience while remaining thematically lower tech for the most part.

Where there is technology, it works seamlessly and magically, adding on to the ghostly vibe that is constantly being emitted by this room. The storyline is always evolving as you progress through the room, and the atmosphere and narrative work perfectly with the game flow to provide a true escape adventure that remains completely immersive throughout. There is more than enough to do, via the non linear presentation of the game, and we never found ourselves milling about, waiting for the next part. All puzzles were cleverly implemented, and were a delight to solve.

Low Points:

One puzzle contains a red herring that feels unnecessary, holding up progress but not in a way that felt challenging. I do understand the impetus behind it, but it could’ve been presented differently to preserve challenge without cluing towards a solution that wasn’t there.

Verdict:

Room 1306 is an atmospheric masterpiece, blending awesome set design, fantastic game flow, and an appropriately spooky story into an immersive adventure that enthusiasts and beginners alike are sure to enjoy! I am so glad that we were able to make our way to Shelby in order to experience Uptown Escapes’ haunted hotel, and highly recommend that you do too! You can book your stay in Room 1306 here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Uptown Escapes provided media discounted tickets for our team.